While many people develop addictions towards illegal substances, just as many people develop addictions towards prescription substances. The type of prescription medication that people develop an addiction to the most is opioids. Opioids are medications that doctors prescribe to people to help them get relief from pain. It’s because opioid abuse is so common today that there is currently an opioid addiction epidemic in the United States. One type of prescription opioid that is commonly abused is hydrocodone. Learn more about hydrocodone abuse, addiction, and addiction treatment here.


What is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid that doctors prescribe to patients to relieve them from pain. Like many prescription opioids, hydrocodone is highly potent. Thus, any form of abuse of the substance can cause individuals to develop a hydrocodone addiction. This is especially true since hydrocodone causes drug-induced euphoria. 


Because of the euphoric effects that hydrocodone causes people to feel, not only do people that use this prescription opioid have a tendency to want to abuse it and use more, but they also have a tendency to quickly develop a tolerance to the substance when they do. Therefore, many people that develop an addiction to hydrocodone need the substance to feel any sort of happiness at all. In fact, it’s very common for people that suffer from a hydrocodone addiction to become depressed and anxious. 


Types of Hydrocodone Medication

There are various different types of brand-name prescription hydrocodone medications. The different types of brand-name hydrocodone prescription medications include Vicodin, Norco, Lortab, and Zohydro.  


Hydrocodone Abuse

While some people start abusing hydrocodone intentionally, many people do so unintentionally. This is because many people that use hydrocodone medication take more than they are prescribed or take their medications for longer than they are suggested to because they think that doing so will help them get more pain relief or get pain relief quicker. This is especially true for people that abuse hydrocodone and, as a result, increase their tolerance to the medication. 


Like all opioids, hydrocodone causes euphoria. As a result, many people also intentionally abuse the prescription opioid. 


Similar to people that unintentionally abuse hydrocodone, individuals that intentionally take part in hydrocodone abuse usually start to increase their tolerance to the substance. Thus, such individuals need more and more of the substance to feel the euphoric effects that they are abusing the medication for. By continuously abusing more and more hydrocodone, though, it’s not long before such individuals become dependent on hydrocodone and develop a hydrocodone addiction. 


Hydrocodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Signs of Hydrocodone Abuse and AddictionWhen individuals develop a dependency on hydrocodone, they suffer from withdrawal symptoms whenever they minimize or discontinue their use of the medication. Because many of the withdrawal symptoms of hydrocodone are severe, many people that develop a hydrocodone dependency continue abusing the substance to avoid feeling them. Unfortunately, continuing to abuse hydrocodone only leads to the development of hydrocodone addiction. 


Common hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms include:


  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches


Other Common Hydrocodone Abuse Symptoms

Outside of those that relate to withdrawal, there are many other symptoms of hydrocodone abuse. In fact, many hydrocodone abuse symptoms develop as soon as a person starts abusing the drug. 


Some of the more common hydrocodone abuse symptoms include:


  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Flushed or warm skin
  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itchy skin with rashes
  • Slurred speech
  • Erectile dysfunction


Signs of Hydrocodone Abuse and Addiction

Even before you’re able to notice all the symptoms of hydrocodone abuse, there are certain signs that can indicate whether or not a person is suffering from hydrocodone abuse or addiction. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), common signs of abuse and addiction to opioids such as hydrocodone include the following: 


  • Taking more of the opioid than prescribed
  • Taking a prescription opioid for a longer period of time than prescribed
  • Not being able to stop using opioids, even when trying to
  • Focusing all of one’s time and energy on getting and abusing opioids (such as hydrocodone)
  • Opioid cravings 
  • No longer being able to keep up with one’s daily life responsibilities due to excessive opioid use
  • Continuing to use and abuse opioids such as hydrocodone despite the consequences
  • Exhibiting risky behavior just to continue abusing opioids such as hydrocodone
  • Increased opioid tolerance
  • Exhibiting withdrawal symptoms from the opioids that one is abusing
  • Willingness to use different types of opioids than you were initially prescribed just to continue getting the euphoric high that opioids give you


Long-Term Effects of Hydrocodone Abuse and Addiction

Hydrocodone AbuseIndividuals that abuse hydrocodone for long periods of time often develop chronic illnesses. In fact, the chronic illnesses that people that abuse hydrocodone long-term develop often stays with them even after they stop abusing the substance and achieve recovery. Some of the common chronic illnesses that people that abuse hydrocodone for extended periods of time often develop are described below. 

Gastrointestinal Issues

It’s common for people that abuse hydrocodone for extended periods of time to develop chronic gastrointestinal issues. This is because hydrocodone abuse often causes damage to the bowel system. 


As a result, some gastrointestinal issues that people often develop after a long period of time of hydrocodone abuse include continuous hemorrhoids and tearing of the skin around the anus, fecal impaction, rectal prolapse, ulcers, and damage to the nerves in and around the anus. Long-term abuse of hydrocodone medications that also contain acetaminophen can even cause people to experience gastrointestinal bleeding. 

Brain Damage

Long-term hydrocodone abuse often causes the breathing rate of people to decrease. This, in turn, causes not enough oxygen to enter the body. As a result, many of the body’s organ systems become damaged. 


One organ in the body that is particularly affected when the body receives less oxygen due to hydrocodone abuse is the brain. Thus, it’s common for people that abuse hydrocodone for long periods of time to develop irreversible brain damage. 


Hydrocodone also alters the number of chemicals and hormones that your brain absorbs and releases. This is especially the case with the feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. In fact, hydrocodone abuse tends to cause the hormones serotonin and dopamine to flood the brain. 


This is why people that are addicted to hydrocodone start to become dependent to the prescription medication to feel any sort of happiness. This is also why depression and anxiety are common hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms. General emotions, rational thinking, memory, and learning are also impacted by extended hydrocodone abuse. 

Respiratory System Damage

The lowered amounts of oxygen that enters the body after long-term hydrocodone abuse also cause long-term damage to the respiratory system itself. Thus, people that abuse hydrocodone long-term often continue to suffer from breathing issues. 


Because of the chronic illnesses that people can develop due to long-term hydrocodone abuse, it’s important for individuals that are addicted to hydrocodone to receive treatment for their addictions as soon as possible. 

Endocrine System Damage

The endocrine system is the system that regulates and manages hormones. Thus, because hydrocodone abuse affects people’s hormone levels, people that abuse hydrocodone for extended periods of time often cause permanent damage to their endocrine system. 


Two of the hormones in the endocrine system that are most affected by hydrocodone abuse are estrogen and testosterone. As a result, many men that abuse hydrocodone suffer from erectile issues, and many women that abuse hydrocodone suffer from fertility issues. Furthermore, women that abuse hydrocodone are known to have 30% – 70% lower hormone levels than normal. This often causes women that suffer from hydrocodone addiction to also suffer from mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. 


Because the hormone levels of women also affect some aspects of their physical health, having low hormone levels due to hydrocodone abuse also cause women to suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis, and bone fractures. 


Hyperalgesia is a physical condition that causes people to experience extreme sensitivity to pain. People often develop hyperalgesia when they abuse opioids such as hydrocodone for extended periods of time. As a result, people that suffer from hydrocodone addiction tend to need more time to recover from injuries or surgeries. Hyperalgesia can even cause people that already suffer from hydrocodone addiction to abuse hydrocodone even more just to get some relief for their extreme sensitivity to pain.  

Loss of Limbs

Many people that abuse hydrocodone long-term end up suffering from a hydrocodone overdose. Such overdoses often cause people to experience a loss of blood flow, which in turn, causes people to need to amputate their limbs. 

Liver Damage

One ingredient in hydrocodone is acetaminophen, otherwise known as Tylenol. Excessive use of acetaminophen can damage the liver. Thus, excessive use of hydrocodone can damage the liver. 


Because of all the damage that hydrocodone containing acetaminophen can cause on the liver, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently limits the amount of acetaminophen that hydrocodone can contain to 325 mg. 


Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment

Hydrocodone Withdrawal SymptomsTo avoid the long-term effects of hydrocodone abuse, stop abusing the substance as soon as possible by attending medical detox followed by hydrocodone addiction treatment. Individuals with severe hydrocodone addictions can attend inpatient treatment or residential treatment. This is because both of these types of addiction treatment programs monitor their patients 24/7 and require them to live at rehab facilities while receiving care.


Individuals with moderate to severe addictions that have life responsibilities that won’t allow them to live in rehab facilities while receiving care can attend partial hospitalization program (PHP) treatment. This is because although PHP treatment doesn’t require patients to live in rehab facilities while receiving care, it does require them to attend rehab for five to eight hours a day, five to seven days a week. 


People with moderate level hydrocodone addictions who really don’t have much free time can attend intensive outpatient program (IOP) treatment. This is because IOPs provide rehab patients with intensive addiction treatment three to fours hours a day, a few days a week.  Individuals with mild level addictions can attend outpatient program (OP) treatment, as they only provide their patients with addiction treatment a couple of hours a day, a couple of days a week. 


Receive Hydrocodone Addiction Treatment At Phoenix Rising Recovery

Here at Phoenix Rising Recovery, we understand that there are a wide variety of prescription opioids and other medications that people often develop addictions towards. That’s why we make sure to offer specialized addiction treatment programs for people with opioid and prescription medication addictions. For more information on the specialized addiction treatment programs that we offer here at Phoenix Rising Recovery, contact us today. Our staff is more than willing to answer any questions that you may have.